I am an editor by trade and by natural bent. That means I have spent most of my adult life noticing and trying to correct mistakes. My husband, Robert, says I can spot an error on a billboard while speeding by at eighty-five miles per hour. My ability to open a three-hundred-page book and spot the solitary typo is legendary. But while that skill is useful when it comes to proofreading, it’s not particularly helpful in relationships, least of all in marriage. If I’m not careful, I am prone to notice and point out the one thing that’s wrong (in my view) and much slower to identify the ninety-nine things that are right.
On occasion, Robert has said, “I feel like you’re editing me.” Ouch. I know that in those moments he feels I’m not pulling for him. What he needs in those moments is an encourager, not an editor. So I’ve made it my prayer and aim to build Robert up and to be a means of grace in his life.
From what I hear from other women, I know I’m not alone in my “editing” tendencies. And I know that focusing on our husbands’ faults and failures can be highly toxic in a marriage relationship.
Does that mean you should never point out needs in each other’s lives? By no means. We all need honest input from those who know us best and can help us see blind spots we may be oblivious to. But our ability to give humble, helpful critique and have it be well received is in direct proportion to the effort we make to give the gift of encouragement.
Our ability to give humble, helpful critique and have it be well-received is in direct proportion to the effort we make to give the gift of encouragement.
The 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge
Knowing how important (and neglected) this gift is in a marriage, I have often urged wives to take what I call the “30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge.” The challenge has two parts.
First, for the next thirty days, don’t say anything negative about your husband—to him, or to anyone else about him. That doesn’t mean he won’t do anything negative. It doesn’t mean there won’t be anything you could say. It just means you’re not going to say it. You’re going to choose not to think about or focus on those things.
Then comes the second part, the positive one, which is equally important:
Every day for the next thirty days, encourage your husband by expressing something you admire or appreciate about him. Say it to him and say it to someone else about him. Tell your children. Tell your mother. Tell his mother. Each day think of something good about your husband and tell him about it, then tell someone else.
Now you may be thinking, I can’t think of thirty things I appreciate about my husband! Well, then, just think of one thing and repeat it every day for thirty days!
In the years that I’ve been offering this challenge, I’ve seen marriages change in a way that has been nothing short of amazing. Here is just one of thousands of responses I’ve received from women who have taken this challenge:
I was at my wits’ end with my husband. We have only been married a little over a year and have had some awful knock-down, drag-out verbal fights. It has been a serious struggle to keep from walking out the door and writing off this marriage.
Begrudgingly, I began my campaign of encouragement toward my husband. I started leaving him notes in his truck, in his wallet, on his computer, taped to the mirror, but I did it with bitterness, anger, and hate in my heart. Right off the bat, my hard-hearted husband tried squashing my efforts, pouring out anger and frustration with me. I was hurt and about to quit what I’d started, but something made me keep going.
Throughout the day, every time a thought would come to my mind about something we had been fighting about, I began to look for the positive things instead of the negative things and would send him a text or email or leave a note for him.
This has been going on for over a week now. When I come home, the first thing I do is grab him and kiss him rather than just mumbling hello and going and changing my clothes.
Last night my hard-hearted, closed-off, non-communicative husband broke down, opened up, listened instead of barking orders, and sat on the couch with me. He said, “This is the best week I’ve ever had! To just be here holding my wife in my arms is the best way to end a day!” In just one week, my marriage is on the path to being mended! My husband and I had a absolutely romantic evening together this week that we haven’t had since our wedding!
On a scale of one to ten, your relationship with your husband may be at a negative two right now. And this little challenge is probably not going to give your marriage an overhaul overnight. But if you persist for the full thirty days, I believe it will change you. It will give you a different perspective. And in time, as you water the soil of your husband’s heart with affirmation, appreciation, and admiration, you may see him change as well. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
You and I know women who would give anything just to have a husband to encourage. My mother, widowed at the age of forty, is one of those women. Throughout her married life, she was a wonderful example of what it looks like to love your husband. She was just nineteen when she married my dad (he was thirty-two). And almost from that moment, their lives, hands, and days were filled to the brim—raising a large family, launching a successful business, and being actively involved in many different kinds of ministry. Mother could easily have resented the busyness and the intrusion on their relationship. But she and my dad were in this together. They were friends. They enjoyed each other’s company and loved doing life as a team. And the difficult times (devastating business losses, a brain tumor that could have taken her life, a fire that destroyed our home) only drew them closer.
As does every human being, my dad had his share of preferences and habits some women might have allowed to become a source of irritation. But my mother adored him. She admired and affirmed him. She didn’t make issues out of things that didn’t matter in the big picture. Amazingly, to this day, I don’t recall ever hearing my mom say a negative, critical word about my dad.
It’s not that she mindlessly agreed with everything he said or did. She is a smart, capable woman with strong views, and my dad solicited and valued her input even when she disagreed with him. But in the course of giving that input, she still showed him honor and respect. And whenever she talked about him to outsiders, she could be counted on to uphold and enhance his reputation.
Just two weeks before my dad died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of fifty-three, my mother wrote in a letter to an assistant he had just hired: “After twenty-one years of living with this man, I truly believe I am the most uniquely blessed woman in the world.” Her husband knew she felt that way.
I want my husband to know I feel that way about him too.
Adapted from Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth (©2017). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission. MoodyPublishers.com.